Keeping Perceptions In Check

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Is one’s state of mind indicated by perceiving a glass container as half empty or half full? Is a 50/50 chance for risking a gambling venture an indication of winning or losing? Does reaching midfield on a football field mean yards earned or yards yet to go? It all depends on your perceptions when seeking answers to such point of views.

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I read today of an NPR report where an elderly woman from rural California liked the modest copays and premiums of the “Affordable Health Care Plan” she was receiving on her modest income. Yet she vehemently opposed the continuation of such coverage when she heard the word Obama to describe the plan she had selected. Apparently, her negative perceptions of the Barack name clouded her judgment at a time when she desperately needed this affordable alternative for health care.

 

Clearly, one’s perceptions of personalities and events that surround them can restrict rational judgment and thus perpetuate closed-minded behavior. When I taught the skill of fact vs. opinion as a professor, I often used visual images to demonstrate the power of perception in biasing our decision-making. Think of the subjective confusion raised by the glass/face”contradiction or the “beautiful woman/old hag” experiment. Ponder whether the ballet dancer balances on her right or left foot depending on which way she pirouettes at the time.

 

The matter of perception seems particularly relevant when one considers the staying power of current Trump supporters in the face of his troubled Presidency. Our current, executive administration uses persuasive images of “bully” pulpit aggression combined with the emotional appeal of tabloid journalism to incite his loyal following. As a result, it seems likely that his base become victims of their perceptual biases as they tune out conflicting evidence of truth that question the veracity of the President’s statements. For instance, the tabloid examples below clearly exaggerate the emotional appeal of the Donald Trump persona and use untruth to cast him as a hero who conquers an allegedly unworthy opponent.

 

On a personal level, I am deeply concerned about the political tone of 2017, where angry pessimism reigns to influence public opinion for closing open borders indiscriminately, disbelieving climate change and annulling Obamacare health care coverage with no adequate replacement. As a responsible citizen, I recognize one’s right to think, speak, and act freely yet I equally value the need to be clear-headed and rational before making important decisions. As a result, I envision two, key behaviors which I will undertake to address my perceptual confusions about pertinent issues.

 

Authenticate The Information Given:

The need to obtain accurate information about a given topic means a great deal to me in deciding whether to believe something as true or not. Secondary news sources like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX, seem to be corporate instigators of misinformation at times while Facebook and Twitter frequently spin into endless rants of anger and blame. Why not put my own investigatory skills to use and directly examine primary sources of information on my own? I can now examine actual government documents in the past by conducting searches on “Smithsonian Learning Lab. “New measurements of political opinion can be easily initiated by my self- creating/sharing of “Survey Monkey”online polls. In the ease of my living room, I can obtain instant fact support from multiple information sources by speaking to Alexa on “Amazon Echo” concerning relevant topics in my mind.

 

Avoid Tunnel Vision:

Tunnel vision is defined as one’s tendency to focus on a single or limited goal or point of view while excluding their awareness of alternate information at hand. In my life, Tunnel Vision takes place when I rush and cannot control life situations. I am standing impatiently in a grocery queue obsessing how slow the expected wait will be. As a consequence of such narrow-minded thinking, I do not consider the benefit of initiating friendly conversation with others to pass the time in line more pleasantly . it seems clear from this example that it would be to my advantage if I let go of the need to rush into such tunnel vision decisions prematurely that interfere with clear-headed thinking. On a deeper level, I also recognize my obsessive preoccupation with the contentious political environment of my country. In this regard, the endless Twitter rants that I read from our President cause unneeded stress in my life and “turn off” my tolerance for respecting opposing points of view. Clearly, I must lighten up, avoid social media more, make use of all of my thinking hats, and divert my mind with meditative silence to provide more outlets of positive energy now.

 

The tabloid culture clearly is not for me as I see no point in making monsters out of those who I fear or threaten me. Keeping my perceptions in check seem particularly vital to me as I experience new cultural challenges in retirement as an independent traveler. “Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind. ” (Rick Steves).

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13 thoughts on “Keeping Perceptions In Check

  1. Excellent post and so very true. Our entire perception of what is happening in the world and especially in America, has been based entirely on the articles we read, the news stations we watch, the groups of friends we talk to, the social media sites we interact with, and add to that our own personal core values. And even among like minded friends I am weary of the negativity they continuously spew. One of my dear friends voted for Trump and on the occasion we discuss his presidency, it is as if we live in two different worlds. I mention a tweet of his and something that happened recently in the news and she is clueless about what CNN or MSNBC have discussed for days. Then she brings up several ridiculous things she thinks Obama did and tells me how strong 45 is and what a great job he is doing. I have to calmly keep my temper and just tell her “We have agreed to disagree”. She is going through chemo and I don’t want to get her upset so we rarely discuss politics. She needs to be kept in a positive state of mind and I want to keep our 40 year friendship in tact. But her views make me very aware how smart people can be led down a road of lies and misconceptions. So our goal of compromise regarding politics was that we both watch the local news at dinner time to hear a less biased account of the day’s events. Her right wing Fox News Station she honestly believes in and I of course know better. But, I also have realized that I need to step back and not stay glued to social media or cable news or my own health will suffer. It won’t change my ideology of fighting for equality. I will still protest and keep fighting to keep our democracy, maintain healthcare reform for ALL citizens, and respect all minorities etc. But, if I focus on the bizarre madman in office and his crazy tweets, I will get sucked into a negative void and I don’t want that to happen!!! I also don’t want politics to ruin a friendship that has lasted decades or negatively affect my friend’s health when positive vibes is what she needs most. I can quietly open eyes and become more enlightened by learning the art of communication in a better way, so that we as a nation can climb out of the darkness and into the light again. I abhor the fighting on both sides. That accomplishes nothing. (I so wish Ghandi were still around). Thanks for this very enlightening post. Isn’t it funny how things we taught our students have come back to smack us right in the face and get us back to reality and what is important????

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leslie . We need to consider our physical health and realize the Trump phenomenon is not our problem to solve. I have no choice but to chill somewhat now for the sake of reducing my daily stress about news.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think we can do both. I personally feel we have to learn boundaries. That way we can still fight for the resistance and do it without hurting ourselves. I’m a few years older than you, Jim. Just enough to remember marching and sitting hand in hand singing peace songs that helped influence the end of The Viet Nam War. Being a part of change is an amazing accomplishment. I protested with a sign at the U of Miami library so women could enter it’s halls in pants or jeans, rather than having to wear dresses, and my protest got coverage by The Herald. The next day more coeds joined me and guess what? They changed the the rules. Girls could wear pants to class and to the library. I helped change occur. So you see, I can’t stop now. I do what I can. I’m learning that even if speaking at a local women’s group makes a difference it’s something I can do. For me the glass is half full. I still feel I CAN change things. You, Ruth, and I did make great changes when we taught and now we can do it through it writing or sharing our ideas. I think I just have to learn how to do it in moderation. And that’s never been my strong suit. Lol ✌️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I admire your courage to continue the fight to change the world now. I do not like confrontation and
    will not play that game by being aggressive. I prefer to quietly write as my manner of protest. Ruth would be much different in her choices here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim, your writing speaks volumes. Being a motivator for change doesn’t have to come by aggression. Your quiet manner has great power. The poetry competition in April (each year) that my oldest son created for the bluapple Poetry Network is called “Louder Than A Bomb”. Because words are earth shattering and louder than any weapon of force. Your blogs are just as impactful.

      Like

  5. great post, thanks for sharing your thought processes and emotions on this one … obtaining your own less biased opinions is really smart and look forward to reading further on these?
    From a distance it seems like freedom of speech has been seriously impeded .. anyone who makes a joke or comment that your psychopath doesn’t like is threatened and withdraws or is publicly ridiculed …the world looks on in horror and your standing as a ‘great power’ is closely questioned. So James some less biased reports would be most beneficial for all

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your candor. I agree that my country’s image image abroad has taken a serious hit as a result of the Trump Presidency. I will continue my travels overseas nonetheless with a spirit of global unity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • absolutely .. people really need to know that there are pleasant sane Americans .. often wonder if Russia and/or China had much to do with his election as rumoured as it has impacted more on your country than any war or invasion .. 😦

        Like

  6. You’ve touched upon a few important topics, especially news coverage. The three outlets you’ve mention are guilty of peddling extremely biased opinions. CNN has recently become embroiled in self-made controversies.

    Regarding DT: The news coverage is lacking. While his Twitter rants are beneath the office of the presidency, the vast majority of those tweets aren’t newsworthy and thinking about all those tweets will only increase stress levels. His policies are newsworthy yet too many news outlets fail to cover what concerned citizens should really know.

    You have the right idea by finding alternative, objective news sources. Whenever I do research, I like to find multiple sources and question the ones I consult. Sometimes, it’s hard to find sources without bias, but it helps to keep an open mind and get multiple perspectives. Hopefully, that will lead you to the truth.

    And it also helps to take a break from the news and find fun, productive things to do.

    Great post.

    Like

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